It’s safe to say that the upcoming board game Frosthaven is one of the most anticipated releases in the tabletop space. Players will need to sustain that eagerness a little longer, though, as Designer Isaac Chidlres told Dicebreaker he isn’t planning to announce a release date anytime soon.
After a record-setting Kickstarter, the followup to Gloomhaven, the fantasy co-op adventure in a very big box, entered a development period made longer by the onset of first the COVID-19 pandemic and then the resulting effects on global freight shipping. Childres said the contraction of available ships and raw materials, which has cascaded into exorbitant rates for what few containers make it out of ports, forced him and the team at Cephalofair to abandon hopes early for a 2021 release.
“At this point we're just hoping for the best when it actually comes to the shipping, but it just keeps going up and up and up,” Childres said. The hope isn’t without stress. Even for a project with millions in player funding, the sheer size and logistics of moving Frosthaven from production facilities in China to backers across the world is a headache on the best of days.
The team is currently considering storing the components in warehouses until shipping prices deflate to somewhat manageable levels - a prospect with very few encouraging estimates as to when the situation might be described as ‘normal’. For Childres, waiting is better than jumping in a vehicle with no brakes.
“Personally, I am not super stressed about getting it to the factory right away because as soon as you start production, that's a march forward that you can't stop,” he said.
Other board game Kickstarters, such as Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood of Venice, have had to ask their backers for more money to cover the untenable shipping rates. Other, small projects have been delayed indefinitely or canceled outright. The blunt truth for many is that the margin for shipping - already a significant portion of the budget for any physical product - can be razor thin. Frosthaven being significantly larger than its already massive predecessor leaves little wiggle room.
Childres explained the reality of fitting Cephalofair’s newest board game inside shipping containers. “A normal board game can fit six to a carton, and it normally would cost about a buck to freight ship. Now, it costs $4, and that's bad but still within your margin,” he said. “For us, we're talking about one game per crate that normally cost about $5 to ship, and now it's costing $20. That $15 increase is more than our margin.”
Cephalofair is committed to not passing the cost of moving their board game on to backers who paid more than a year ago at this point and doesn’t believe eating the cost just to hit what Childres characterised as an arbitrary holiday 2021 deadline is worth courting disaster. At present, Frosthaven might fulfill in waves over “a very long period of time” as containers become available. “Some people might get it significantly sooner than others. And that's just going to be the reality of the situation, he said.”